Leadership Lessons from Lord Ram

The last year 2020

I recently listened to a talk by Devdutt Patnaik on Diwali, which not only makes Indian mythology interesting but also draws excellent parallels to our lives and management issues. His talk got me thinking about what kind of leader Lord Ram was and I decided to write down my thoughts.

Before I begin my journey, I would like to put a disclaimer. The views expressed in this article are solely mine and are not intended to impose any religious tone or sentiment.

Leadership is one of the most popular topics in management. In earlier times, the leader was always the Raja, a ruler or king who was responsible for creating order and harmony in the world. One of his most important duties was to protect people’s property (in this context, we should keep in mind that property can include personal boundaries) and to make sure that no one interferes with that property.

The questions that were on my mind were – Is leadership innate? Can it be inherited or cultivated? Where does one learn leadership in a crisis situation? I had so many questions and as a coach, I wanted to understand how Lord Ram managed to be such a powerful leader and how he enabled so many to unleash their inner strength. His ability to create and distribute resources from nothing, which seemed like an impossible task and required collaboration, inspired me. He taught me that you do not have to be born a leader and that in a crisis, anyone with the right beliefs can be a leader.

Lord Ram was a great king, an obedient son, a loving husband and brother, but what set him apart in my eyes were the leadership qualities he possessed in times of crisis. I wanted to make the most of this Diwali and integrate the lessons I had learnt from an epic ruler. Here are a few of my observations.

Lord Ram – a king who ruled from the front. 

In 2020, we see successful leaders who rule from the front. There are many examples of people who have demonstrated leadership during these difficult times of the pandemic. One of the key values they displayed during the crisis was conscious calmness deliberate calm and boundless optimism. Lord Ram was known for his composure. He not only demonstrated these skills but also possessed humility and never gave up on them.

Lord Ram – A Leader of the Masses 

Lord Ram was a king of the masses who gave equality to many and showed empathy in his actions while giving strength to others. He never discriminated between different classes. Lord Ram was as comfortable with Sugreev, the king of Kishkinda, as he was with Shabari, a woman from a tribal village.

The stories of my childhood spoke only of kings who went about in disguise to inspect their subjects and take their pulses, but Lord Ram was as comfortable in the jungle as he was in a palace. To me, this underscores that a good leader bridges the gap between different classes of people and creates a vision of a common purpose.

There are many examples of empathetic, social leaders in this world, such as Azim Premji – the philanthropist who gave away a large portion of his fortune to charity – Mother Teresa – who was a leader because of her service – and many companies today that have the CSR function as an important part of their mission and vision. We can learn so much from these leaders.

Lord Ram – a leader who empowers 

Another lesson on effective leadership that I learned from Lord Ram was empowering others to use their strengths to help them build and grow. Lord Ram always put himself first, he was not afraid to stand up for what was right and encouraged those around him to do the same. He stood up for his values and taught me to do the same.

Lord Ram – A leader who exerted influence despite his power 

We all have influence over others in some way, but we are rarely aware of the power of that influence. Any leader can choose to use their sphere of influence to build the necessary trust, respect and commitment of others in their organisation.

Lord Ram – a team player

Lord Ram worked with Lakshmana, Hanuman, Vanar Sena and even squirrels to build the bridge to Lanka. He showed that teamwork was the key to accomplishing his mission. Leaders today need to engage and take responsibility along with their team, which in turn can lead to inspired employees.

In conclusion, in times of ambiguity, you can learn a lot from your own stories… I can think of many more myself, but these were just a few that I integrated this Diwali. We are surrounded by our stories and the stories of others. These stories have power and life, we can use them to make better connections and greater success. I invite you to use stories as a tool in your coaching practice. Remembering, retelling and revisiting these stories can create a dramatic change in those around you.

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